Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The Celtic Origins of Halloween
This dark holiday has its beginnings in the Celtic fire festival of
Samhain, pronounced SOW-uhn. Travel through the mist of time with these excerpts from my Celtic/Romance books to celebrate Samhain with the ancient Celts.
There was a great deal of singing and dancing around the huge bonfires at Samhain. Here is an excerpt from Druid Bride that will give you a feel for what fun they ancient Celts had:
Now that the fire was blazing, Tanwen raised her hands above her head and twirled, chanting as a gray-headed Lossio beat the bodhran. "The fire sparks. The veil parts. Spirits among us, bones, ashes, dust are once again family and
friends. Ancestors come near, feast with us here. Dance and Sing around the
stone ring. Great powers abound, the circle goes around. All hail Samhain."
Musicians came forth, strumming a harp and playing the Pict triple pipes. Brude meant to tell her they couldn't wed this eve, but as he neared her, she seemed more like the woman he longed to lie with again. Between thoughts of Tanwen entwined with him, the roaring bonfire, and the music, he forgot his forebodings.
He joined in a dance around the flames. The earth beneath him vibrated to the
beat of Lossio's goatskin drum, the haunting hum of the triple pipes, and the
ethereal tone of the harp. He was smoke rising from the fire, and the music
pushed him high into the air. Mellow warmth swirled in the pit of his belly.
Brude spun faster and faster around the blaze. As he leapt in the dance, he
turned his gaze toward Tanwen.
Samhain is the Celtic New Year eve so as is it falls between the old year and the new, it is a day without time. In Danger Is Sweet, it was a joyous day for the pregnant, Pictish princess, Bethoc whose husband is a selkie, a shape shifter between man and sea. Here’s an excerpt:
The air was filled with an exuberant din of singing, chattering, and further Samhain merriment. Her child would be born on this day, which fell betwixt the old and new year. A day without time.
Malcolm grinned at Bethoc as he carried her through the city streets. "A selkie,
a Scot, a Pict, and born on Samhain; this will be a special child."
The most important feature of Samhain was on that day with the veil between worlds at its thinnest, spirits of the dead and supernatural beings easily crossed into our earthly dimension. In this excerpt from Druid Bride you can share the wonder and magic of the ancient Celts as they visited with loved ones once more, who had passed on:
With thoughts of the new family she and Brude would soon have, Tanwen fastened her gaze on the feasters scattered across the hall. Here and there, between clusters of people, lay empty animal pelts with plates piled with food in front of them. Places for the spirits of the dead who came through the oak door to feast at Samhain.
Her ancestors, all of her family was here at her wedding, and sharing this day
with her. Her brother Boudicius, her mother, her father, her aunt, and her
grandmother Boudica, who had foreseen this very day. It brought a tear to her eye.
After feasting, the tribe climbed up the hill, where the kids played a game with
an apple hanging from a stick alongside a lit candle. One by one, amid squeals
and giggles, they tried to take a bite of the fruit, while the flaming candle
dangled dangerously near. Adults sat with each other, telling funny stories and
some serious ones of the events of the past year, encouraging the dead who
gathered with them to take interest in the affairs of the living. Others danced
around the bonfire, and many couples broke off from the crowd, to find little
spaces of privacy here and there, for coupling long into the night.
Brude swept Tanwen into his arms and carried her all the way down the hill and to his wheelhouse, where he laid her on his soft bed.
The ancient Celts put food or treats out for their ancestors and celebrated this day with them. Here is an excerpt from The Fox Prince with the characters busy baking and then putting out treats for the dead.
"Lads!" Nesta clapped her hands hard. "The tarts are almost done."
"Come, get your face painted for Samhain," Aelfrida called to the boys.
Firmly, she cupped the tallest lad's chin in one hand while brushing a chunk of
crumbling charcoal across his cheeks. He shut his eyes tight and she blew the
excess soot away. She looked at his sooty face and clicked her tongue.
"I do not know if you are a spirit of the dead or a dirty-faced lad."
He raised his arms and curled his fingers like claws then moaned loud enough to be heard in the otherworld.
"Oh!" She laughed. "A spook you are then!"
"Paint my face," the youngest lad called as he bobbed up and down.
The charcoal felt dry and powdery in Aelfrida's fingers as she sketched the outline of a skeleton on the little urchin face.
"You are a true haunt," Nesta declared.
Aelfrida smudged the third lad's face with black charcoal and pronounced, "The spirits are sure to think you one of them and pass you by." She stood back and grinned. They are so cute. Not a one is a terror as they are of a wont to be. "Let me paint your face, Githa," Aelfrida called to the little girl.
"Nay." Githa shook her head and scampered toward the wall.
Aelfrida burst out in laughter. A pounding noise sounded at her back followed by creaking and a chill gust of wind. She swiveled to her left. The door was open but no one was there. The children suddenly grew quiet. Their wide eyes fixed upon a spot to her right. Slowly, she turned.
"Boo!" Tryffin stood there with a huge grin on his soot-covered face.
Aelfrida flung her hands aside her head. "You are a sight." She dropped her
shoulders and burst out in giggles.
"I am a spirit come to find a live body for Samhain." With a seductive gleam in
his eyes he said, "I think I shall take yours."
Here's one last excerpt, this from my comming Celtic/Paranormal/Romance, The Wolf and the Druidess to be released 12/07/10.
Her mother had been so proud and told everyone, "See how wise my daughter is, so blessed by the gods, the druids took her to foster." Few were chosen, training took many years, and a druid’s ranking in the tribe placed as high as the chief’s. Seren was surprised how much older she was now, five and twenty years, still she had a need for her mother. The loss was deep. It left a hole in her. Warmth and joy would return to her heart tonight when she celebrated her favorite feast day, Samhain, the New Year, with her departed mam.
Just moments ago she heard the call of an owl, the chirp of a bird, and the whistling wind, but the forest had suddenly grown so quiet she could hear the crackle of dried leaves and the rustle of her elbow brushing across a bush.
As she walked, she glimpsed a creature passing like a black shadow between the spooky trees. It crept in stealth like part of the darkness itself. A shiver shot through her. But the mysterious being didn’t make a sound and seemed uninterested in her. Seren held the torch out as she turned around, searching for anything there. She saw nothing.
Seren kept to the narrow path as she walked deeper into the forest. She’d sensed something. Mayhap a spirit, they came to earth tonight, but she knew it wasn’t her mother's ghost, she’d recognize her.
There was no turning back. Whatever it was, she would make peace with it. Seren had to bring the Samhain meal to her mother and honor her, yet she couldn’t shake the odd feeling someone watched her.
Holding the torch high, she chanted. “The torch is burning, the year is turning, by this light, I greet the spirits of Samhain night.” Seren called out, “Who is there? Be you sprit or man?”
No one answered and she picked up her pace down the dirt path through the thick forest, so dense with trees. They crowded in on her, like a trap. Brandishing the burning torch like a bright weapon, she hurried on shaky legs toward the cairn. She gasped, nearly tripping over a large fallen branch, but caught her footing.